IAEA envoy says Iran willing to cooperate on nuclear issue

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reza Najafi delivers a speech to the media, as part of the Board of Governors meeting at the UN atomic agency headquarters in Vienna on 12 September 2013. (Photo: AFP - Alexander Klein)

Published Thursday, September 12, 2013

Iran's new envoy to the UN nuclear agency said on Thursday he would cooperate with it to find a way to "overcome existing issues once and for all."

But Ambassador Reza Najafi, at his first board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also repeated Iran's position that it would not give up what it sees as its legitimate right to a peaceful nuclear energy program.

"Based on its rights and obligations recognized under the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), Iran is ready to faithfully engage and remove any ambiguity on its nuclear activities," Najafi told the governing board of the Vienna-based UN agency.

Iran is at loggerheads with Western powers in particular, who fear its nuclear program may be designed to give it the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the accusation.

Separately from big power efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute that could trigger a Middle East war, the IAEA has held 10 rounds of talks with Iran since early 2012 in a bid to resume a stalled inquiry into suspected atom bomb research.

The negotiations have so far failed to yield results but a meeting is set for September 27 in Vienna, seen by Western states as a key test of the new Iranian government's intentions.

Najafi, who was appointed to the Vienna post after President Hassan Rohani took office in early August, said there was a “strong political will” on the Iranian side to "constructively interact" on the nuclear issue.

"We are looking forward to working closely with the Director General (IAEA chief Yukiya Amano) and his team in the coming days," Najafi, a career diplomat and disarmament expert, said.

Asked whether he was hopeful that an agreement could be reached in the Vienna meeting, he later told a brief news conference: "We sit together, we directly and frankly discuss the differences. We hope that we can solve those differences."

Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy and medicine, denying any aim to acquire nuclear weapons.

Hitting out at Israel's "clandestine nuclear weapons program", Najafi said Iran's nuclear program "has always been and continues to be exclusively for peaceful purposes" and that Tehran would never relinquish its "right" to peaceful atomic activities.

Rohani, who has vowed that Iran will be more transparent and less confrontational in talks both with the IAEA and the big powers, said this week that the time for resolving Iran's nuclear dispute with the West was limited.

He said he would meet with the foreign ministers from some of the six powers – Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States and Germany – when he attends the UN General Assembly in New York this month.

Iran is ready for "meaningful, result-oriented and time-bound negotiations," Najafi said, calling on the West not to speak to Iran "with a language of threat or sanctions".

"We hope there would be the same approach and political will on the other side. In this context, we should not lose sight of the fact that interaction is not a one-sided road," he said, according to the text of his remarks.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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